What Will You Find in the Hotel Minibar?

A luggage rack, a TV set, carefully folded sheets and a Toblerone chocolate in the hotel minibar; these are the paraphernalia to welcome guests in most average hotel rooms in the world. To British experimental filmmaker John Smith, hotel rooms and their standardized equipment have become a playful inspiration, creating unexpected contexts. From August 15 to 21, you can watch the Hotel Diaries series at Doc Alliance Films for free.

“This is really, really strange”, a man’s voice says while the camera shows a dark door with light shining through from the hotel hallway. Soon the reason for the filmmaker’s concern becomes clear. It’s two hours past midnight; a few moments ago, one of the world’s certainties stopped still. The never-ending flow of the BBC News froze on the television screen, showing the motionless face of an expert with slightly open lips and a title with brief information on the course of a military invasion. It was on October 8, 2001, the second night after the American and British invasion of Afghanistan began, that avant-garde filmmaker John Smiths saw the “frozen” war news. A certain sense of anxiety, agitation and confusion over the next course of events made him grab his camera and make a personal commentary. That is how his six-year project of recording brief confessions in eight hotel rooms in six countries of the world during his festival travels spontaneously began.
By means of recordings consisting of a single scene, made usually at night, Smith has captured his very personal, disconcerted reactions and reflections on his little video camera. With their equipment, decorations and details, the hotel rooms have provided him playful linking points for his experiences and adventures from festival travels on one hand and the theme of the conflict in the Near East on the other hand. Walt Disney animal stickers found in the wardrobe in Holland have inspired a playful reflection on the trio Bambi the deer – Tony Blair – skunk; the shaking ceiling of a hotel in Palestine has triggered a lamentation on Israeli occupation; the Toblerone chocolate pyramid has carried the filmmaker’s thoughts from his sore tooth to reflections on the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian election and president Bush’s suspension of help for Palestinian inhabitants. The moment of chance plays a significant and indispensable role in Hotel Diaries; combined with Smith’s sharp wit, it provides almost miraculous linking points between the microcosm of a hotel room, the “here and now” of an individual and the world events. In his last hotel confession, the filmmaker returns to Cork, Ireland after six years. The dollar has dropped; Americans and British soldiers are still in Afghanistan and Iraq, demonstrating their notion of democracy; Tony Blair is not a prime minister anymore; and John Smith has an unbearably “dry mouth”… What happens next?
The unique Hotel Diaries series includes the following films: Frozen War (Ireland, 2001), Museum Piece (Germany, 2004), Throwing Stones (Switzerland, 2004), B & B (United Kingdom, 2005), Pyramids/Skunk (the Netherlands, 2006/7), Dirty Pictures (Palestine 2007) and Six Years Later (Ireland 2007). From August 15 to 21, you can stream all of these films on the portal for free!


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Doc Alliance is a creative partnership of 7 key European documentary film festivals. Our aim is to advance the documentary genre, support its diversity and promote quality creative documentary films.